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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 22, 2011
P.O.ed at the P.O.
By Saranac Hale Spencer
CLARKSVILLE More than 30 people and six businesses and organizations have filed a petition to review the United States Postal Service’s determination to close the Clarksville branch.
Peter Henner, a lawyer who lives and works in the rural hamlet, filed the petition, arguing that the Postal Service acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner, failed to consider the impact of the closure on the community, and assumed that closing the branch would save money, a reason for action that is “statutorily prohibited.”
Henner, who relies on his post-office box at the Clarksville branch to handle time- and security-sensitive material, also notes in the petition that rural route delivery would not satisfy the needs of other businesses, which also handle valuable and confidential mail, and residents, some of whom need to get temperature-sensitive medications through the mail.
The other option is for Clarksville residents to move their postal box to the Feura Bush office, which is about five miles away.
“The financial and energy use implications should also be considered,” Henner argues. “There are 214 post office boxes at the Clarksville Post Office. If we assume that 100 (approximately half) of those box holders will choose post office boxes at Feura Bush, and if we assume that, on average, they will travel an additional 10 miles per day to access their mail, that is an additional 1000 miles of driving per day, or based upon 250 days per year (based upon a five day week - excluding Saturday mail pickup), 250,000 miles per year. At an average fuel consumption of 25 miles per gallon, this is equivalent to the use of an additional 40 gallons per day of gasoline or 10,000 gallons per year. At four dollars per gallon, this is a total expense to the community, for gasoline alone, of over $40,000 per year. If the true cost per mile, figured at the Internal Revenue Service allowed rate of $.55 per mile, is measured rather than the cost for gasoline alone, this is equivalent to $137,500 per year for driving expenses.”
The criteria with which the cash-strapped Postal Service is now reviewing its branches is based on the revenue that comes into the offices on an annual basis, Margaret Pepe, the Postal Service’s manager for marketing and customer relations in the Albany district, explained earlier this month, following the Aug. 23 notice of closure in Clarksville.
The criteria changed in July, Pepe said. “It was done nationally,” she said of the change, explaining, “With everything going on in the Post Office… we know we’re going to run out of money.” Pepe referred to the Postal Service’s strapped finances, leading it to petition Congress to change mail delivery to five days a week instead of six and to seek relief from its heavy pension costs.